Telomerase activity in lesions of the thyroid: Application to diagnosis of clinical samples including fine-needle aspirates

Kenjiro Aogi, Kenjiro Kitahara, Ian Buley, Martin Backdahl, Hiditoshi Tahara, Takashi Sugino, David Tarin, Steve Goodison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


The telomerase enzyme is capable of replacing telomeric DNA sequences that are lost at each cell division. It has been suggested that the function of this enzyme is necessary for cells to become immortal, and in concordance with this hypothesis, telomerase activity has been detected in malignant tumor cells, whereas the enzyme is inactive in normal somatic cells. The measurement of this activity in human tissue samples may have diagnostic value, and in this study, we examined whether such a measurement may be useful for the detection of malignant cells within the thyroid. Telomerase activity was assayed using the telomeric repeat amplification protocol and related to the histological diagnosis of thyroid biopsy tissue samples and of cells obtained from the thyroid by fine-needle aspiration (FNA). Extracts from 9 of 11 (82%) carcinoma biopsy tissue samples contained telomerase activity, whereas enzyme activity was detected in only 2 of 14 (14%) benign tissue sample extracts. These two positive cases were subsequently diagnosed as Graves' disease with severe lymphocytic infiltration. Five of six (83.3%) histologically confirmed carcinoma FNA samples were identified by using the telomeric repeat amplification protocol assay, and two samples considered to be suspicious by FNA cytology were also positive. Conversely, only 4 of 48 (8,3%) benign FNA samples had telomerase. These promising data indicate that this sensitive assay could become a useful adjunct to microscopic cytopathology in the detection of cancer cells in small tissue biopsies and in fine-needle aspirates of the thyroid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1965-1970
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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